With Amazon building a second headquarters, another North American city is salivating to get what some call the greatest economic growth engine in history. Caution: Here it blew some people right out of the city.
Dear Other North American City:
Greetings, from Seattle By Amazon. We’re HQ1, the original company town.
But we are now old news. It’s you — one of America’s other midsized cities with recreational opportunities as ample as your corporate tax benefits — who will soon be crowned as HQ2, the second home of what some call the greatest economic growth engine in human history.
At least since the Klondike Gold Rush anyway.
Which is why we’re writing you. If there’s one thing we know in Seattle, it’s boom and bust. We’ve gone from billboards urging the last one leaving to turn out the lights to now, our first million-dollar neighborhood. Both the rush, and the relapse, of the fast buck are in our civic DNA.
So heads up, Other North American City: Amazon is about to detonate a prosperity bomb in your town.
It’s the perfect phrase, as it covers both the yin and the yang of what’s about to happen to you. The riches, the jobs, the thriving and striving. But also the aftershocks that can forever alter your community.
Let’s start with the good. Amazon’s stock symbol, AMZN, isn’t amazin’ for nothing. No company ever rained money on us like this one — nearly $40 billion into our city economy just since 2010.
For those of us lucky to be born early enough to buy a house back in Seattle BA (Before Amazon) this explosion has transformed us into assessed-value millionaires. You want this, too, we understand. Everybody does.
But make no mistake, the bomb part is real. As money has flung off of South Lake Union it has also buffeted some neighbors, workers and small businesses clear off the city map.
It’s no egalitarian device, this prosperity bomb. Rents have soared, and we’re now one of the more unequal, unaffordable cities in the nation. It not only hasn’t lifted all boats, it has sanitized the fleet by blowing the blue-tarp dinghies clear out to Auburn.
We have tried to confront this. We have 58 cranes building housing furiously, by far the most in the nation. It hasn’t dampened the bomb yet. It might even be further fueling it.